Charlotte Blank, Chief Behavioral Officer at Maritz, says her job is ‘selling science.’ In this interview, held immediately before our meetup gathering in Minneapolis in February 2018, Charlotte describes research she conducted with Leslie John, Tami Kim, and Kate Barasz to create a recent HBR article titled “Ads That Don’t Overstep.” Their work yielded two very simple and important messages about communication: 1. Don’t talk behind someone’s back, 2. Don’t make assumptions. In the world of big data, machine learning and algorithm-driven communication, marketers need to pay close attention to these.
An early part of our discussion was on Charlotte’s fascination with Franz DeWaal‘s work with monkeys, bonobos and the mysterious octopus! This led to a discussion about fairness as a key principle in program design and if you’re not familiar with DeWaal’s seminal work with capuchin monkeys, check it out here.
We discussed the now-famous Target advertising case where the company promoted pregnancy-related products to young women based on their buying habits and in one case, neither the woman nor her parents knew she was pregnant. There’s a line to pay attention to and it has to do with the two guidelines noted above.
Charlotte also mentioned a couple of excellent books that she’s recently read: Melissa Dahl, publisher of Science of Us, has a new book called “Cringeworthy, A Theory of Awkwardness” and Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s new book called “Everybody Lies” are top picks for those curious about human behavior.
The theme music in this episode, like all the other Behavioral Grooves music, is composed and played by Tim Houlihan. We are grateful to Jon James allowing us to use his work “Transfiguration” during intro and outro of the interview.